Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Trial court acted like a lawyer in Jaya case, I-T dept tells Madras HC

If the verdict goes against Jayalalithaa, experts say, it could give the opposition DMK an opportunity to sort out its internal differences.

TOI  24 Sep 2014

CHENNAI: Income tax department went hammer and tongs at a trial court hearing the income tax returns cases against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her friend N Sasikalaa, saying it had acted like an advocate of the accused.

Noting that the economic offences court at Egmore here has granted more than 100 adjournments to the duo so far, and even the Supreme Court order directing it to complete trial within a time limit has not improved the situation, senior prosecutor of income tax department K Ramasamy told the Madras high court on Tuesday. Justice K B K Vasuki, who is hearing four petitions filed by Jayalalithaa and Sasikalaa to stay the ongoing proceedings in the economic offences court at Egmore here, said she would pass orders on the matter on Wednesday. 

The two are facing cases for their alleged wilful failure to file tax returns for the years 1992-93 and 1993-94, which is a punishable offence under Section 276(CC) of IT Act. The cases were filed in the year 1996. After inordinate delay, the case bounced back to life after the Supreme Court on January 30, 2014 directed the trial court to complete the trial within four months. By another order, the court extended the date up to September 6, 2014. 

As they have been asked to be present in the trial court on October 1, they have filed the current petition saying their applications for compounding the offences were pending before the income tax department and that the trial court should not hear the case till a decision was taken on their applications. The outer time limit for processing compounding applications is 180 days, which would expire only on December 24 this year, their senior counsel B Kumar said. 

Another senior counsel and party MP A Navaneethakrishnan, representing Sasikalaa, said it was a compoundable offence and hence the benefit should be given to the applicants. 

But Ramasamy said neither the trial court nor the high court itself had any jurisdiction to entertain any petition seeking extension of deadline laid down by the Supreme Court, and said remedy for the two was to approach the apex court and obtain some direction or the other. He wondered as to why they were afraid of approaching the Supreme Court. 

Noting that the compounding an offence was departmental proceedings and hence not binding on criminal proceedings in courts, Ramasamy said both could proceed parallelly independent of each other. Wishing the two leaders all the best in compounding the offence, the prosecutor said if they succeed the benefit would go to them. But anticipating any order or progress, the criminal proceedings should not be held up, he said. 

Assailing the trial court and its indifferent approach to the deadline stipulated by the Supreme Court, Ramasamy said the income tax department had already constituted a committee involving three chief IT commissioners to handle the applications, but made it clear that even compounding of the offence would be done only after obtaining necessary instructions from the apex court. "The Supreme Court is monitoring the case," he said. 

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